Friday, January 20, 2017

db—CoHo Productions—NW Portland

“…Print the Legend!”

This imaginative play is written by Tommy Smith, created by Smith and Teddy Bergman and directed by Isaac Lamb.  It is playing at their space, 2257 NW Raleigh St. (parking is a challenge in this neighborhood, so plan your time accordingly), through February 4th.  For more information, go to their site at www.cohoproductions.org or call 503-220-2646.

I believe it was John Ford who said something like, if the legend becomes better copy than the truth, print the legend!  And so it is with db Cooper, Sasquatch, Robin Hood, Jack the Ripper, et. al.  They are relegated to that shadowy world of Folklore, where myth and half-truths meet.  And so, in this script, we have shades of who db was and the “possibilities” surrounding his life.  According to the author, “…everything you see here is imagined.”  And so, with that in mind we, like Alice, are taken on a journey down the rabbit hole of a Wonderland of imagination.

It’s unclear why such stories as this become popular in the Public’s eye.  Part of it is, of course, he got away with it and that it is, to this day, unclear as to who he really was.  Also he was somebody, for reasons unknown, that defied the System/Authority and we all, at some point, usually have that dream ourselves.  Legends are born out of the desires of the needy, where the “little guys” are in charge and the “big boys” put in their place.  Hooray for us!

And, since we have so little to go on, it is fair game to imagine anything we’d like.  All we know for sure is that in late November in 1971, an unremarkable looking man in a business suit and sunglasses with a briefcase boarded a NW Airlines plane and flew from Portland to Seattle where he demanded $200,000 or he would detonate the bomb in his briefcase.  He got the money, the plane was re-fueled and he wanted to be flown to Mexico.  Somewhere over Arial, WA he parachuted out of the plane and into Legend.  Except for almost $6,000 that a boy found in the river 9 years later with numbered bills belonging to the skyjacker, nothing more has officially been heard from or of him.

The play imagines some possible scenarios of who he was and why he may have done it.  The play has five actors playing about 30 roles:  The major characters being…Rebecca Lingafelter as Tina, the stewardess who had the most contact with him; Dana Green as Marla, supposed niece of db, et. al.; Alex Ramirez as Barb, a Transgender individual as db, needing the monies for an operation, et. al.; Duffy Epstein as Duane, another possible db, needing monies for his business, et. al; and Don Kenneth Mason as Ron, a man who purportedly was a friend of db’s, et. al.  I can’t really give you too many more specifics as certain situations are up to the audience to discover.

It sounds confusing, as all of those stories intertwine and jump back and forth in time but surprisingly, even when most of the actors play multiple parts, you do manage to keep things straight.  And the half dozen different stories do have a certain plausibility to them, so Smith has been very clever in his imaginings.  But it must have been a nightmare to the actors and the director, Lamb, in keeping things straight, but they do just that admirably well.  Lamb has keep the playing space simple with only key props and set pieces stationary because of the constant changing from one time period to another and one setting to another.  The lighting is also key to keeping things relevant and both are done by Peter Ksander.

The cast is super!  You follow Lingafelter’s Tina from a young woman with simple plans into a nightmare world where she, in the final result, feels she must remove herself from.  An exciting journey in her hands!  Ramirez’s Barb, the transgender individual, in particular, is a powerful and compelling role and she delivers it full force.  Green takes us on a roller-coaster ride as Marla, from a precocious teenager descending into drugs and alcohol as she ages because of her experiences.  Epstein is always a joy to watch onstage as he explores various incarnations of db, all very possible.  And Mason, as a man that’s just trying to keep above it all, only to discover he is human after all, with all his warts intact.

I certainly recommend this play, as it’s something you’ll talk about long after it’s over.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.